Oklahoma ,1944, a time of turmoil and fear wafted through a country that everyone knew as a free and safe place. A place of dreams and hope and yet her face was pressed into the dirt just the same. It was the damp cold earth of the basement and she felt uncertainty more than ever. The round full cheeks that everyone loved to pinch were smudged with dirt and tears and moisture from the depth of the basement floor.
Why she was there being pressed and hushed into silence, she didn’t know, but it was not a safe feeling. Her baby fine hair as blonde as blonde can be was the lightest thing about that morning. There were no words to describe what they were hiding from. Her big sister, at five years old, only had two years more experience in this crazy place called home. She needed to protect her from what was over there heads.
Boots. It was the sound of boots over their heads. Not army boots but work boots. Drunken work boots to be exact. Their daddy didn’t tell them to go to the basement but they did it anyway. It was more of a crawl space than a basement. Even a child couldn’t stand up in it. That was where you went when there was a tornado or twister and that’s what the boots felt like. They brought the feeling of a tornado coming through the house .
The boots were after daddy’s money. He gambled and there was a debt to be paid. The sound of furniture falling over and pounding fists in the drunken flesh of their daddy’s face. He hadn’t meant for this to happen in his own house but it did. It was a time of war in 1944 and it had been uncertain where the safe haven would be. Where would another bomb be dropped or boot be heard?
The motion above theirs heads stopped and the morning rose without hesitation. Her sister let her lift her head up off the dirt floor. It was time to go, time to move before it happened again. As they climbed the short steps out of the basement there was no explanation. The sun shone through the kitchen windows, soft and bright. This would normally give you that cheery feeling, but too much had happened in that space and it couldn’t be undone. It was time to go.
Her mother stared like a statue and did nothing to make it better. There would be nine children coming from her womb and seemingly the only reason she wanted to be here on this earth. To be the pathway for the collective they called a family. It was shaky at best coming in and they would find that connection less and less over the years. She sat her 3-year-old body in her moms lap and yet that closeness still did nothing to help her feel secure.
They left under the guise of searching for a better life, but it wouldn’t find them. It was more like running from the mess her daddy made. Piled into the old beat up Chevy truck they rode their way across the lower states as far west as they could get. It would be a farm where they landed. A place they could be housed and work at the same time. Grunt work was what he was good for. Grunt work and drinking.
There always seemed to be so much dirt around them. The dusty plains of Oklahoma or the thick earth from the farm lands of southern California. As her momma kept popping out babies she and her sister became responsible for raising them, even as children still themselves. There was nothing more to it. It’s what women did in those days. They had babies and their husbands hopefully worked and helped to feed them all. Her daddy didn’t do so well in that department. He liked to drink and carouse with women. There would be many women to replace her momma.
It wasn’t until the 9th baby that her momma finally said, no more. She became a welfare mom even before welfare was a system to be “had”. Who knew the sound of boots over her head would come back in the form of a song that she would hold dear in her heart. “These boots were made for walkin and that just what they’ll do, one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you”. Tina Sinatra brought her the song, but life brought her the experience and meaning underneath the words of the song.
From way back when those baby cheeks lay pressed into the dirt, to the day when she would learn to put her own boots on and kick back. That baby grew up fast, too fast. She learned to pick in the fields and orchards as just another field hand. It eventually, would be how she got out. With the country at war over and over again she found her way out of the dirt and into another way of life. Not much better than where she came from.
In early mornings, in her memory, she feels the cold damp dirt on the sweet pale cheeks of her 3-year-old self. She feels the stinging heat of her tears and of the sadness of where she started. It all pales in comparison to where she is going now. It’s a memory that needed to be shared. To be released from the depths of who she is now, as my mom.
A memory she shared from the in between place she sits in. She wanted to let the world know, the very small child she once was had made it this far. From the depths of the Oklahoma planes, in a crawl space far below the sound of the boots. She wants to say now….Are you ready boots ? Start walkin.
Footnote: I have never heard this story from my mom. This was channeled from her higher self this morning. She is very adamant that this event took place. How it is written is how I heard it.